Diabolical Masquerade

The Phantom Lodge

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Originally released in 1997 on a small label in his native Sweden and reissued more widely a decade later, The Phantom Lodge was multi-instrumentalist Anders Nyström's second album under the project name Diabolical Masquerade. As with Diabolical Masquerade's much more polished later projects, those with some knowledge of the more obscure corners of metal history will find that The Phantom Lodge sounds very much like a modern black metal take on the atmospheric prog metal of the 1970s Italian act Goblin, who made their name writing soundtracks for various European horror flicks of the era. Here, the standard black metal blastbeats and heavy unison riffing are leavened through not only the judicious use of atmospheric keyboards (fairly common in the subgenre known as symphonic black metal), but with the more intriguing adoption of folk instruments and tunes. The eight-minute epic "Ravenclaw" features skirling flutes and bagpipes over martial drums while admirably managing to avoid sounding like the "Stonehenge" section of This Is Spinal Tap, and the two-minute instrumental "Across the Open Vault and Away" mixes a chiming, flute-like keyboard tune highly reminiscent of both old-school European prog and the classier end of '70s softcore porn with an admirably restrained guitar part before blasting into the speed metal headbanging of "Hater," which Nyström kicks off with a good old-fashioned operatic howl before launching into his more standard-issue death grunt. Vocally, Nyström avoids the low-register clichés of the Cookie Monster growl: much higher-pitched and with an appealingly odd strangulated quality, his vocals, like the music, flirt with the usual black metal same-old-thing, but with enough personality to make The Phantom Lodge enjoyable for more than the black metal diehards.

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